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AMC Networks Acquires Sentai Filmworks & Hi-Dive

Not so long ago, the anime industry in the English-speaking world consisted of a small number of independently operated companies. As streaming exploded though, the big media companies took an interest and started buying out the anime distributors and streaming services. Sony recently acquired streaming site Crunchyroll, through their Funimation division, adding to a considerable portfolio that also includes what was the UK's Manga Entertainment (now rebranded as Funimation UK and Ireland) Aniplex, Austalia's Madman Anime and European streaming site Wakanim. Now, AMC Networks has announced the surprise acquisition of the Sentai group, one of the few remaining independently owned anime distributors in the US.

Sentai operates the distributor Sentai Filmworks that licences, localises and releases anime for the American market both digitally and on physical media, and also the streaming service Hi-Dive. Realistically, it is the streaming side that will have attracted AMC, as the company also owns several niche streaming services such as Shudder and Acorn TV, that are able to thrive alongside the majors by targeting and servicing a specific market. Hi-Dive will allow them to reach a whole new audience.

With Funimation and Crunchyroll both owned by major conglomerates for some time (Crunchyroll was part of WarnerMedia prior to the buyout) and increased competition from mainstream sites such as Netflix and Amazon, Hi-Dive has a much smaller catalogue than its rivals, and its exclusives are often more niche even within anime fandom, such as targeting an older crowd or the more hardcore fans.

The backing of AMC should give them a leg up in getting more and bigger titles overall. Crucially, it should mean that the Hi-Dive app will be distributed more widely: AMC services are currently offered on devices that Hi-Dive is currently available on. It also should allow more international expansion. It could possibly also mean that Sentai's non-animated content, including Japanese and Korean genre films, could become a bigger part of their output. Hopefully, it can have a positive effect on Sentai's physical releases too, improving distribution and potentially move into the theatrical market.

Texas-based Sentai is actually the current form of one of North America's oldest anime labels. It was established in 2008 out of the ashes of AD Vision (later ADV Films) the original anime distributor founded in 1992. For a time it was the biggest name in the game and expanded considerably, getting into publishing (including a localised version of the icon anime magazine NewType) opening a UK office, launching the first dedicated TV channel for anime in the US The Anime Network which later became a streaming service which eventually morphed into Hi-Dive. ADV published many of the most popular anime of the 90s and noughties including Neon Genesis Evangelion, Robotech, Martian Successor Nadesico and Azumanga Daioh.